CHICAGO (CBS) — Sears is showing its strongest signs yet that it is likely to move its headquarters out of Illinois.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Marsett reports, Sears Holding Corp. has confirmed that it is in discussions about two prospective sites that are not in Illinois.

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LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Marsett reports

A source familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press the two sites are in Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio.

Sears spokeswoman Kimberly Freely said in a statement Thursday that Sears officials recently conducted tours of two sites and continues to talk with officials in Illinois about the company’s expiring tax incentives deal.

Another source said company officials toured Austin and Columbus. That source spoke to The Associated Press anonymously because negotiations over the company’s headquarters are ongoing.

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Sears is one of many companies that have discussed moving out of Illinois due to a hike in the state’s corporate tax in January, from 9.5 percent from 7.3 percent. Rumors that Sears was considering abandoning Illinois surfaced in May.
Richard Warren Sears moved his company from Minneapolis to Chicago and met partner Alvah C. Roebuck in 1887.
But the mayor of Hoffman Estates, where the company is now based, said in May that the departure by Sears is a real threat.

“It’s a real possibility that Sears could relocate,” Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod told CBS 2’s Jim Williams last month. “They have a responsibility to their shareholders, to make the best deal they can for them.”

Back in 1989, the company threatened to move to North Carolina, so the state put together a package of tax incentives and Sears moved from the Sears Tower – now known as the Willis Tower – to Hoffman Estates.

Sears now employs 6,200 people at its headquarters.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn said he continues to talk to Sears in an effort to keep the company in Illinois.

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